It’s late January, it’s cold and it’s dark. While the Big 12-SEC Challenge is enjoyable to pass the time, it’s not Big 12 football (at least in my eyes). I’ve been spending the past couple of days taking a look at the 2019 Big 12 football schedule and thought to myself, “which game am I most excited and intrigued by heading into next season?” While we still have seven to eight months left until the season starts, and plenty can change, I’ll give you my answer for each team as of right now.
Baylor Bears: September 28th vs. Iowa State
Baylor’s non-conference looks like it did for most of the Art Briles tenure with Stephen F. Austin, UTSA and Rice. The Bears should be 3-0 and then its the Cyclones at home. If Baylor is going to make the leap from a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team to an upper half one, this game will be telling for the Bears, who have a softer start to the schedule with Iowa State and Kansas State.
Iowa State Cyclones: September 14th vs. Iowa
Sure, it’s a non-conference game, but it’s a game Iowa State hasn’t won under Matt Campbell and hasn’t won since 2014. The Cyclones have only beaten the Hawkeyes once in the past six years. Campbell has this program in the best spots it’s been in decades, but winning against your in-state rival still has pull and meaning. It would be the emotional hurdle that could really launch the Cyclones’ 2019 season.
Kansas Jayhawks: August 31st vs. Indiana State
I don’t know how Les Miles is going to do in trying to turn around the worst Power 5 program in college football. But hey, if he wants to get things off on the right foot, just beat Indiana State to start the season and go from there. One game, one win, and try to build off of it. That’s all this program can do at this point.
Kansas State Wildcats: October 5th vs. Baylor
It might not seem that meaningful at first glance, but it’s the Big 12 home opener for new head coach Chris Klieman, who will be coaching in the shadows of Bill Snyder for at least the 2019 season. If he can get the home crowd on his side, even with a tough two-game stretch against Mississippi State and Oklahoma State on the road, then he will be in good shape.
Oklahoma Sooners: October 12th vs. Texas
OU is looking for revenge after losing last year’s game and now it’s Texas who might very well be the favorite heading into this one. It will, of course, play a big role in who ends up playing in the Big 12 Championship, or at least who is the front runner to play in the game. Plus, OU’s schedule is pretty soft up until this point (UH, South Dakota, UCLA, TTU and KU), so it’ll be the first major test of the season for the Sooners.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: September 28th vs. Kansas State
This might seem like an odd choice, but my thinking goes as follows: Oklahoma State plays Oregon State, Tulsa and McNeese State, then they open Big 12 play at Texas. The Cowboys should be 3-0 before the Texas game, and while they beat the Longhorns last year, it’s likely UT is a heavy favorite in this game at home. So if OSU wants to have a bounce back season and not end up with a mediocre year for a second straight season, then this game against Kansas State will be telling. Chris Klieman has a rebuild on his hands and it’s the kind of game Oklahoma State needs to easily win at home (especially considering their disastrous performance against K-State in Manhattan this past season).
TCU Horned Frogs: October 5th at Iowa State
Gary Patterson is also trying to get his team to recover from a .500 season to getting back into Big 12 contention. Their game in Ames is the final game before the bye week and will let us know if TCU is going to be a contender in the back half of the season or if they will simply be competing for bowl eligibility again.
Texas Longhorns: September 7th vs. LSU
What a match up for Week 2. This will likely be a top 10 game and while it’s not a conference game, it will have huge ramifications for the Longhorns. If this is the year Texas thinks it should get over the hump and not just win the Big 12, but reach the College Football Playoff, beating LSU not only is a massive resume booster, but it gives them wiggle room to drop a game at some point during the season, and still make the Final Four. If they lose this game, UT would need to then run the table to reach the Playoff.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: September 28th at Oklahoma
Hey Matt Wells, welcome to the Big 12. To start your career here you get to play the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman! At least you’re coming off a bye week..? Seriously, it’s not ideal for Wells, but it is what it is. He could shock the country if he pulls off a win and Lubbock will fall in love with the guy and they’ll say, “Kliff Who?” But remember, Kingsbury almost knocked off the Sooners last season at home, and if Wells gets blown out, the fan base who had Kingsbury’s back, and will be watching him now coach on Sundays, will begin grumbling very quickly (this guy included!).
West Virginia Mountaineers: September 7th at Missouri
Any time you get a Big 12 – SEC match up, it’s worth keeping a close eye. Nevermind when you have a new head coach and a program trying to find some stability after the bizarre end to the season, including the departure of Dana Holgorsen. Missouri loses Drew Lock and WVU loses Will Grier, so we will get a look at both program’s future at the most important position. Neal Brown has himself a tough non-conference slate with N.C. State the following week, so the Missouri game will set the tone for the rest of the season.
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